Sharuko on Saturday
IT’S that awful month when the world is flooded with the negativity of the damage that man inflicts on the globe’s most beautiful game as political battles, triggered by the explosive fight to lead FIFA, reach a climax.
But it’s a measure of football’s resilience that, even in the month when its soul will be battered by negativity, it still can produce a moment, so magical, the whole world takes a bow and embraces it as its most beautiful game.
Like Lionel Messi, selling Jerome Boateng the Dummy of the Century, as if he was accelerating left and then, without breaking stride, swinging right and sending the defender collapsing on his backside, before lifting the ball past giant ‘keeper Manuel Neuer with the precision that could only be expected from a laser guided missile.
“Perhaps the most striking thing about Lionel Messi’s second goal against Bayern Munich at the Camp Nou on Wednesday night was its gentleness,” Barney Ronay, writing for British newspaper, The Guardian, noted.
“There were 80 minutes gone when Messi approached Jérôme Boateng, feigned to go inside but instead glided to his right, not so much a dribble as a kind of lullaby, leaving Boateng, Manuel Neuer and finally Rafinha lying down very gently on their backs in their own penalty area as the ball floated into the back of the net.
“In the space of five perfect strides Messi had effectively put the Bayern defence to sleep, lulled into a drowsy supplication at his feet by a moment of controlled gymnastic perfection.”
And Chris Bascombe, writing in the Daily Telegraph, said it was time to take a bow to the little master from Argentina.
“We should bow at the feet of Lionel Messi and say thank you. We should dispatch a bouquet to Barcelona to acknowledge the purity of his game and the talent he applies so exquisitely,” wrote Bascombe.
“And most of all, we should revere the little genius for showing that — contrary to an increasingly obnoxious counter argument — football is so much more about personality and individuality than it is about logarithms, statistics and formations.
“Messi shows us football is an art, not a science, and for those of us who believe the game a feast for the eyes rather than a series of equations, he is a gift from the footballing gods.”
Or CAPS United, for all the chaos that blighted their last visit to the City of Kings, the shock of the abandonment of their game, the unrest among their rebellious players, the turmoil in a camp that was a mockery to everything that Shambo, Tauro and Kode worked tirelessly for, somehow returning to Bulawayo to write their most beautiful story there in about two decades.
The explosion of the emotions of their passionate coach, running onto the pitch in celebrations when they scored, the priceless image of the bright face of this delirious English expatriate so happy at work here, beamed across large parts of the continent by the SuperSport television cameras, saying he feels like a man who has just won the World Cup.
And that his players are the best bunch of footballers he has ever worked with.
The redemption of Stephen Makatuka, the fall guy for that DeMbare goal that denied CAPS a first Harare Derby win in six years, one of the men fingered as the ring leaders of that rebellion in the City of Kings, returning to Bulawayo to score the goal that ended 18-years of suffering for the Green Machine at Barbourfields.
The stunning ability of those CAPS United players to rise above the monumental financial challenges rocking their camp to put together a performance, so heroic, it made a mockery of tradition.
The boundless joy that this brought to their fans, men and women who had endured close to two decades of pain as their team failed to win a league match at Barbourfields, who had paid their way into Luveve not so long ago to watch a ghost game, as their heroes shamelessly pulled out of the contest and, for good measure, who had retained their love, and trust, to pay, at least, $5 each, hoping the football gods will feel sorry for them this time around, even though the odds didn’t favour such a miracle happening.
For some of us who had the privilege of watching Messi at his imperious best at the Camp Nou on Wednesday night, when the ultimate footballer in him provided us with the quality that makes him a better football specimen than the goal-scoring machinery that has made Ronaldo one of the legends, one defining image will remain embedded in our minds forever.
It was a Barcelona fan, in an Argentina national team jersey, exploding with joy in the stands after that sumptuous second goal had gone in, clearly in Dreamland as he soaked in the moment, and then the Sky Sports television commentator giving us a fitting sound-bite, “only football can make someone feel this way.”
Yes, only football, this game of games, can make an English expatriate working at a financially crippled domestic Premiership team, feel like he has won the World Cup after winning at Barbourfields, make him explode with such raw emotion when his men secured that defining victory, make the CAPS fans forgive the very people who tormented their souls, just a few weeks ago with that rebellion, and embrace them as the ultimate heroes again.
As you take a bow for Messi, for the quality of a performance on Wednesday that gave a new meaning to the word genius, don’t forget Mark Harrison, for the magnitude of his sensational achievement in the City of Kings on Sunday and his men for reminding us that, for all the insults we hurled towards them after their rebellion and donation of points, they really care about this brand called CAPS United.
HARRISON IS MAKING HIS MARK
IN A HURRICANE
CAPS United have had a miserable experiment with foreign coaches —Zambians Fordson Kabole and Fewdays Musonda, who appeared jinxed by a first name which seemed to suggest he would not last long, were both exposed by the demands of at the Green Machine.
Even before the turn of the millennium, when the club was still being run by CAPS Holdings, it never seemed to work out and Ghanaian coach Ntibehene Bonsu failed to make an impact while some of the club’s fans believe Northern Irishman, Sean Connor, was simply a sick joke.
By the time Connor was dismissed, CAPS United had slipped into the relegation zone, on the back of four straight defeats, including a 2-3 loss to Hwange, which proved the last straw, and ended a rocky relationship that had been doomed to fail from the word go.
It’s easy to understand why there is such a lack of trust, when it comes to foreign coaches, among the CAPS fans – all their four league titles, a poor return for a club of such a magnitude, have been delivered by the local boys with Steve Kwashi creating an immortal Green Machine in ’96.
And Charles Mhlauri creating a mean machine that didn’t lose on the road all season, in 2004, and lost only once at home, on their way to amassing the highest number of points, and goals, in winning the league championship.
But for all the challenges they have faced with foreign coaches, the CAPS United leadership simply can’t resist them, and the recruitment of Harrison was the latest of their love affair with expatriates.
However, given his modest record in his South African adventure and his tendency to jump ship now and again, the Englishman’s appointment wasn’t the kind of recruitment that would have sent the Green Machine share price exploding on the Stock Exchange, if they were a listed company.
And one could forgive the concern, among some of their long-suffering fans, that this was just another Connor in disguise.
But, while It might be early days yet, Harrison appears to be different and he has managed to create a very strong bond, with the club’s fans, who have warmed up to his raw passion for their team, his frankness when discussing the challenges that are stopping their club from making a huge leap forward and his honesty when things don’t go right.
They like the work that he is putting into the project, and they appreciate it’s not easy for an expatriate to come here to work under such difficult conditions but still remain committed to their cause, they see him as one of them, a man who has fallen in love with CAPS United and wants the team to be successful and they like the direction their side is taking.
When they were humbled 0-4 by Triangle, they didn’t see him as the reason for their dismal performance, but the tough conditions that he has found himself working under.
And when he axed ‘keeper, Victor Twaliki, who until then was his first choice, the fans understood why he had reacted that way, when his men beat Highlanders, he hailed them as the best bunch of players he has worked with in his career.
When they followed that up with a poor show against Hwange, he was bold enough to say that they had let their team, and supporters, down.
He has been working in a hurricane, since he arrived at CAPS United, and the mere fact that he has remained devoted to the club’s cause, critical of its leadership, and the conditions his men are working in, when he has to, but all the time looking at the bigger picture, which is the eventual success of the club.
The Green Machine’s lifeless performance against Hwange at Gwanzura on Thursday was as pathetic as they come, they were so poor at times they were barely recognisable as the men who had beaten Highlanders a few days ago.
But — even against that depressing background of the two points dropped — the fans gathered to cheer Harrison as he left the field.
There is no doubt that Harrison isn’t walking alone, he has the company and support of his team’s fans, and that’s something that we have never said at CAPS United since Mhlauri made them very special about a decade ago.
Unfortunately, the financial storm they are working in could blow them apart and, if that happens, when the love affair between the fans and their coach starts being strained, by things completely out of their control, it could be one of our game’s tragedies.
For we might never know what this beautiful love affair would have achieved, in another environment, under different conditions, when the pressure of dealing with the distraction that comes with all these challenges wasn’t there.
IF SAUL HAS FAILED, THEN WE ARE ALL MAD, VERY MAD
Saul Chaminuka, the coaching genius who will never get his credit, because he has a voice that does not ooze with authority, because he has a frame that doesn’t make him a heavyweight, because — for once in his career — he misfired badly with an outburst, which included the dreaded word bulls**t, in describing the performance of the referee after losing at Chapungu.
Last year, in ZPC Kariba’s maiden season in the domestic Premiership, he guided them to back-to-back wins against Dynamos, and very few coaches did that to Callisto Pasuwa, his team lost just four league matches — the least number of defeats in the marathon — were unbeaten in 19 games and ended just a point behind the champions having scored the highest number of goals and with the second best defence.
And, he did all this, while playing all his home games away from home, and at the end of the season he lost Ephraim Mwinga, one of his defensive rocks, and Limited Chikafa, one of his better forwards, because they were offered better deals by his rivals.
Yes, Raphael Manuvire, the attacking midfielder, returned from a horrific injury to score a number of goals but, given the heartbreak of their crushing failure last season, when they appeared set to be champions, only a fool would have expected ZPC Kariba to recover quickly and fire from all cylinders from the word go.
And, to blame Chaminuka for that, when he has only lost two of his eight league games, has a team with the second best strikeforce, so far this season, and is still playing away from home all its matches, is a bit unfair.
If winning 17, drawing 15 and losing just six of your 38 league games, guiding a team that has only been in the domestic Premiership for 16 months, with none of the games played in the stadium that you call home, can be called failure, then we are all mad, very, very mad.
This, indeed, is a brutal and ugly game but then, thank God, we have Messi, to remind us that this is such a very beautiful game and Harrison to show us there is passion in this game.
To God Be The Glory!
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